Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
 print version

God Is Always Seventeen

This is the last poem in the book. In a way, I don’t even want
to finish it. I’d rather go to bed and jack off under the covers

But I’d probably lose interest in it & begin wondering about God,
And whether He’s tried the methamphetamine I sent Him yet, & if He still

Listens to the Clash & whether the new job He got for Mozart
As a janitorial assistant in Tulsa is working out.

Besides, I can’t imagine a body in the first faint stirrings of arousal
Without feeling sorry for it now, & anyway, I’ve built a fire in the fireplace

And I don’t have a fire screen yet, & have to watch it until it goes out,
Even the last lukewarm ember. It isn’t my house.

It belongs to a bank in St. Louis somewhere & they have four thousand
Different ways to punish me if the place goes up in flames, including the guys

From Medellín who work for them now & specialize in pain.
Besides, it’s still winter everywhere & maybe you want to hear a story

With a fire burning quietly beside it. The story on this night when it
Got really cold, & the darkness of the night spreading

Over the sky seemed larger than it should have been, though
Nobody mentioned it. It was something

You didn’t feel like bringing up if you were sitting in a bar
Among your friends. But all that happened was the night kept getting larger

Then larger still, & then there was a squeal of brakes
Outside the bar, & then what they call in prose the “sickening” crunch

Of metal as two cars collided & in a little while the guy went back to telling
This story in which the warm snow was falling on the yard

Where he & the other prisoners were exercising. I guess the guy
Had evidently done some time, though everyone listening was too polite

To bring it up. And what happened in it was a clerk bleeding to death
In a 7-11, & the guy telling it called 911 for an ambulance, & the police found both

Cash from the till & the gun on him when they arrived. He didn’t think he’d shot
Anyone that night or anyone ever & was surprised & puzzled

When they made a match on the gun, the clerk lived to testify, & they convicted
Him. No one along the bar said anything when he’d finished

Telling it, & the night went on enlarging in the story, & I think our silence
Cut him loose & let him go falling. And one by one, we paid & got up & left

And went out under the stars. I have a child who isn’t doing well in school.
It’s not his grades. It’s that he can’t wake up.

He misses his morning classes & doesn’t answer when I call & doesn’t
Return my calls. The last time I saw him we took the train down from Connecticut

To New York & wandered around Times Square. We went into this record store
And pretended to browse through some albums there

Because we didn’t know what to say to each other. It was night. It was just
Before the Christmas season, & the clerks in the store

Would call out loudly Can I Help Anybody & Can I Help Someone & there was
Some music playing & something inconsolable

And no longer even bitter in the melody & I will never forget
Being there with him & hearing it & wondering what was going to become of us.  

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